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Rep. Scott Rigell Urges Republicans To Stand Against Donald Trump


Virginia Congressman Scott Rigell is making a plea to his fellow Republicans. Vote for any candidate but Donald Trump. He wrote that in an open letter yesterday. Trump went on to win seven Super Tuesday states, including Virginia. Congressman Rigell, welcome to the program.

SCOTT RIGELL: Thank you, Audie. I appreciate the opportunity.

CORNISH: Now, you started that letter by saying that if Donald Trump was the Republican nominee, it would be catastrophic for the party, and yet, Trump went on to win 35 percent of the vote in your state last night. So are Virginia voters not seeing the concerns that you have?

RIGELL: I think there is just a level of deception, if you will, of who this individual is. I truly believe he's not a true conservative. His values as a Republican or a self-described Republican, when he mocks the disabled, when he really badly stumbles when asked about David Duke and the KKK, when he says that he admires Putin and then quotes the dictator Mussolini - this is unfathomable to me that this is the type of individual who leads the party that I love. And I think...

CORNISH: Would you vote, then, for the Democratic candidate if it came down to that?

RIGELL: I would not vote for the Democratic candidate. I could not vote for Donald Trump. I would therefore have to write in someone. I could get behind any other Republican candidate, any of them. I'm not a Cruz fan. I could get behind him. And I think that's where our party is because I really believe that he is so polarizing even within the Republican Party that he will fail to have a majority if he is, in fact, our nominee. I think he will be shredded by the Democrats based on the opposition research that's there.

CORNISH: How could any of these candidates really catch up to Trump at this point? Are you and others against him essentially too late?

RIGELL: No, I don't believe we are. Now, is the window closing - absolutely, but it is not over. I don't believe that Donald Trump will walk into the convention with 1,237 delegates. I'm not sure how it's all going to unfold. The duplicitousness of his positions - how has flip-flopped on issues that are key to us as Republicans - some of them seem to only have been recently adopted and superficial in nature.

CORNISH: But when you look at his support, is it maybe that you're out of step, that you and other establishment Republicans are no longer in step with your party's base?

RIGELL: If there's one thing that ought to end up in this interview, it's the repudiation directly from me, respectful but direct, on you classifying me as the establishment because I am not. I came up here because my nation is on fire fiscally. I've only been up here five years, and I'm not seeking reelection. So I really have somewhat of a visceral response to the charge of being part of the establishment. I am not, and those of us who...

CORNISH: I totally understand that. And with all due respect, I guess what I'm saying is, why would any voter who supported Trump who believes that he should be the nominee listen to a congressman when they are essentially rejecting Washington and rejecting people who are officeholders?

RIGELL: Well, because he is deeply flawed in every respect. But more importantly, it's who we can be for. I am a strong advocate for Marco Rubio. I think he is the kind of individual and leader who can expand our party. I heard him in Virginia Beach, and he talked about loving those with whom he disagrees and those who didn't vote for him. I don't think that's in Donald Trump. He is nothing more than a bully. I don't think Donald Trump's going to prevail. He'll fall, and it's going to hit hard.

And something structural is taking place within the Republican Party right now. This is a moment - a defining moment for us, and I'm convinced, as we go along and millions of Americans have not yet voted, including Rubio's home state, that something can turn here. And I'm anxious for it, and I'm fighting for it.

CORNISH: That's Republican Congressman Scott Rigell. He's endorsed Marco Rubio. He also represents Virginia's Second Congressional District. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

RIGELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.